West TN Students Go Wild in STEM Challenge at Memphis Zoo

The West Tennessee STEM Hub sponsored the first annual STEM Challenge Summit on May 2, 2014 at the Memphis Zoo. Teams of students from five high schools and one middle school presented their plans for redesigning or renovating the zoo’s aging Herpetarium (Reptile House), which opened in 1960. Two schools presented scale models of their designs. Memphis Zoo logo

East High School won in the first division; Southwind High School won the second division. Dresden Middle School won the middle school section

“Zoo officials were having some serious conversations about revising a part of the Herpetarium to coincide with their proposed development of a Nile River exhibit,” said Dr. Alfred Hall, head of the West Tennessee STEM Master Teacher Corps. “We were able to take this real-world scenario and pose it to groups of teachers and students across West Tennessee and allow them to provide their own solutions.”West TN Zoo Challenge

Students were encouraged to use their STEM knowledge in approaching the redesign challenge. The student teams had to consider the types of animals to be housed and maintained in their design including the variety of required environments and climates. They had to explore technology options for providing a safe and naturalistic habitat. In addition, the teams developed the actual structure including calculating the necessary space requirements for each animal. Master Teachers from the STEM Hub created lesson plans and activities to prepare students to participate in the challenge.

“What better way to apply all these different aspects of STEM than to redo a building?” asked Matt Thompson, director of animal programs at the Memphis Zoo. “Teachers and whole classes came to see the site and talk to us. They asked very specific questions about the animals. I was very impressed (with the students).”

The Memphis Zoo began in 1906 with a black bear named Natch – a retired baseball mascot. Today, the Memphis Zoo is a premier zoo in the country and spans 70 acres. It is home to more than 3,500 animals, representing over 500 different species.

Read more about the STEM Challenge.

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